Thursday, December 1, 2011

Medical marijuana calls for compassion, understanding

If you had the power to make a decision that would help someone who is sick and suffering, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?

Today, Senator Erpenbach and I reintroduced a bill that would provide compassion to the sick and suffering. Our bill would legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin.

 Ten years ago, when I first introduced this legislation, 8 states had laws on the books regarding medical marijuana. Today, 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that have laws that allow the cultivation of medical marijuana and protect patients from criminal penalties.

This is an issue where the public has been ahead of the policy makers. A November 18th CBS News poll showed that 77% of Americans believe that medical marijuana should be allowed. The most recent statewide public referendum from the Midwest, which happened in Michigan in 2008, won support from every single county in the state with an overall tally of 63% in support.

Clearly, there’s momentum to support this issue, and I’m proud to be the lead author in the Assembly on this bill yet again.

Our bill covers conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and HIV and other diseases as could be determined by administrative rule. The bill also creates a maximum amount of marijuana a patient may have, establishing clear limits for both the patient and law enforcement. Finally, the bill gives the Department of Health Services the ability to create rules for a registry of people allowed to use medical marijuana and for the licensing and regulation of a non-profit corporation to distribute marijuana.

Wisconsin is sadly amongst the 34 states still don’t provide compassion to the sick and suffering. Each and every one of my colleagues has a chance to help someone who is sick and suffering and I hope they take the time to research this important issue and talk to patients.

I think once they take the time to understand this topic, they will be unable to turn away people in need.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Department of Revenue Validates Income Equity Act

My record has been clear my entire career with regards to taxes. I believe in fairness.

That’s why several sessions ago I successfully passed the Sales Tax Fairness Act, which ensures your sales tax dollars actually make it back to the state, rather than the big box stores keeping your tax dollars as pure profit.

And that’s why I’ve reintroduced the Income Equity Act, the very first bill I ever introduced as a State Representative in 1999. The bill, based on federal legislation (HR 382), would limit government tax deductions to corporations with inflated CEO pay if that company doesn't also fairly compensate the little guy too.

To read a previous blog I wrote describing the Income Equity Act, click here.

I’m happy to announce the Income Equity Act (AB356/SB-250) recently got some good news from the Department of Revenue. Anytime a bill in the legislature will have a fiscal impact, relevant state agencies create a “fiscal estimate.” While these numbers are often guesswork, they are based on the best available information.

According to the Department of Revenue’s speculation based on the best available federal tax returns, the bill will generate more than $13 million each year for the state.

Ironically, the projected revenue this bill would generate would actually fully fund another of my bills, which would restore Walker’s cuts to the state’s recycling fund.

But will Republicans actually take a vote in favor of tax fairness? One can only hope!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We need real jobs legislation

We’ve all heard the Republican mantra: Businesses are the “job creators.”

Well, I’ve been a small business owner for 23 years and I’ve got to tell you, there’s nothing more insulting for a business owner, or job creator if you will, to hear than the lip service Republicans constantly give us.

Ever notice how much the Republicans salivate when they talk about us “job creators?” Yet, when they get the keys to the Capitol, all they seem to do is figure out new ways to...  Read my complete guest blog for The Progressive here.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pay gap drives 99% movement & the Wisconsin Income Equity Act

In our struggling economy, the poor and the middle class are hit disproportionally worse than the wealthy.

Don't take my word for it. Just look at several prominent studies.

The Institute for Wisconsin's Future recently released an interesting report that articulated the very wage gap that has people protesting all over the country.

The study, which tracked CEO pay from four prominent Wisconsin companies, compared their CEO Pay to that of the average Wisconsin worker. The study found that the average CEO pay amongst the four companies studied jumped from $2.3 million to $6.9 million over the past decade. Not bad. Meanwhile, the average Wisconsin worker saw their wages, adjusted for inflation, increase by just $1,000 per year. Not good.

Not only did the study show that the rich are getting richer while the corporations aren't proportionately increasing the pay of their workforce, it showed these companies spend a lot of time trying to exploit every single tax loophole the legislature has created for them. In fact, almost none of the companies paid any state income tax. I guess this goes to show you that investing in a good accountant trumps investing in the middle-class.

And nationally it isn't any better - it's even worse. According to BusinessWeek Magazine, in 1980, CEO pay equaled 42 times the average blue collar workers' salary. According to, CEO's now make 343 times more than the average worker, giving America one of the largest wage gaps in the world. I believe we must learn from our nation's mistakes. Yes, American history includes worker exploitation. However, I believe we must move beyond that dark shadow and strive to achieve the American Dream for everyone.

If we are going to create a level playing field where everyone can achieve the American Dream, we must change the way we do business in America. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office articulated the wage gap. Since 1979, according to the CBO, income for the richest one percent has risen 275 percent, compared to 18 percent for the remaining 99 percent of Americans.

That isn't right. And I didn't think this was right in 1999, when I was a freshman in the State Assembly. That's when I first introduced the Wisconsin Income Equity Act, a bill based on federal legislation. My bill, which is also a bill before Congress (HR 382), would limit government tax deductions to corporations with inflated CEO pay if that company doesn't also fairly compensate the little guy too.

Currently, corporations can deduct up to $1 million of a CEO's pay from their income tax. Meanwhile, the janitor at most of these companies pays more in taxes than the company does. My bill would cap the corporate tax deduction for CEO pay at 25-times the salary of the lowest full-time employee at the company.

If you pay the lowest paid employee $20,000, you can still deduct $500,000 of salary - 25 times the lower amount. This is fair and just, and provides a real incentive to pay workers better.

I'm not saying corporations can't pay an executive what they want. I just don't think the 99% of us should have to subsidize excessive executive pay.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anything But...

When Governor Walker branded his second Special Session on job creation, he left out two important words; “anything but.”

Because in reality, we are embarking on our second “Special Session on Anything But Job Creation.”

While their special session started with a bang with lots of talk about jobs, so far, it has been a bust… or a bang, depending on if you consider that the GOP seems more focused on guns than job creation.

You’d think Governor Walker would have learned his lesson after his first failed special session. In fact, our unemployment rate has grown faster than the national average since Walker’s first unsuccessful special session on job creation.

Yet, here we are repeating Walker’s mistakes…again.

Since Walker announced the “Special Session on Anything But Job Creation” in September, the Wisconsin State Assembly has taken up 85 bills and 12 resolutions, yet very few of these bills will improve our economy.

Walker claimed he’d “focus like a laser” on job creation. Instead, Walker’s focus is more like a disco ball.

Instead of asking how we can help create jobs, the State Assembly is deeply embroiled in other important philosophical questions such as:

·         Should we be able to serve butter AND margarine in restaurants?

·         Is it okay to ban video cameras in the Assembly Gallery, yet allow our guests to have concealed weapons?

·         How many hours of advance notice should landlords give to their tenants if they wish to enter an apartment for a non-emergency?

·         What time of day should liquor stores be able to open?

·         Should you be able to drink wine at a county fair?

·         Should you be able to transport a gun on a boat? If so, how?

 Today, Republicans tell us the Assembly is going to take up its first bills from Walker’s special session, but I’m not holding my breath that they will actually help the economy or create jobs. I’ve seen this movie and I know how it ends.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wisconsin’s new conceal and carry law

Regardless of your position on the issue, there’s no doubt things will be a lot different in Wisconsin on November 1, when concealed carry goes into effect.

My office has been getting calls from constituents about the new concealed carry law, so I decided to write a brief blog to answer some frequently asked questions.

First and foremost, the definition of a concealed weapon includes more than just guns. The new law covers knives, tasers and even billy clubs. In order to qualify for a concealed carry permit, you must provide proof you’ve completed adequate firearms safety training, which can include training from another state.

Even if you get a concealed carry permit, it doesn’t mean you can carry your billy club or other weapon of your choice anywhere. Many state and municipal facilities have banned concealed weapons. Public schools, for example, were exempted in the law.

Many people have called our office asked how to ban concealed carry on their personal property. The City of Madison has published a sign that will likely become as universal in Madison as the No Smoking Sign.

You also should check with your boss to find out if you or your coworkers will be allowed to conceal and carry on the job. You may find it helpful to know who’s packing at work. For example, it appears Governor Walker is going to allow the general public to pack heat in the Capitol. Yet, his own instructions allow supervisors of state workers who work in the Capitol to prohibit their employees from concealing and carrying.

There are a bunch of questions that can arise out of conceal carry. In fact, the Department of Justice put out a 56 page Frequently Asked Questions about the new law. In addition, the City of Madison published a great FAQ as it pertains to city property, such as busses and buildings.

This new law has the potential to have a dramatic impact on your life. So, I encourage you to educate yourself as much as possible on this new law.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Welcome to the Committee on Criticizing Colleges and Universities

He held a public hearing on the “abuse” of sick leave for UW employees.

He invited an ultra-conservative lawyer from Virginia to tell us that we have too many people of color at UW-Madison. 

Now that there is something that will actually impact the quality of education students receive at their UW campus, Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee Chair, Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is denying Assembly Democrats’ request to for a hearing.

You see, Governor Walker recently announced he would cut an additional $65.7million above the $250 million Republicans already imposed while he is barely taking any cuts out of his own office.

We all knew at some point that the state was going to have to make $174.3 million in additional lapses. It just seems odd that the UW is being asked to absorb $65.7 million or 37.7% of the total lapse while Governor Walker is volunteering just $1,742 in cuts to his own office, which makes up just .001% of the cut.

Perhaps the committee should be renamed the Assembly Committee on Criticizing Colleges and Universities.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Special Session? Special for Whom?

...Immunity to pharmaceutical companies, attorney’s legal fees and trespasser liability seem more like a tea party manifesto or a corporate fundraising solicitation than a special session on jobs to me...

Read my entire guest blog for about the pending fall floor period and special session here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pocan exposes Walker's legislative strategy

When I went to the ALEC convention in August, they shared strategic tips on passing special interest legislation. In this video, I talk about how Governor Scott Walker is using that tactic to fast track his special interest legislation under the guise of a "jobs" agenda.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Governor Walker's Not-So-Special Session on Job Creation

With Wisconsin's unemployment rate rising faster than the rest of the nation on Governor Scott Walker's watch, the governor has called his second special session on job creation. Check out this video, where I talk about how this special session, much like Walker's first special session, is just cover for corporate give-a-ways.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The temporary occupation of FitzWalkerstan

Many have asked where the term "Fitzwalkerstan came from. I coined the term on the floor of the State Assembly. Find out why by viewing my video blog below.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hey Walker, the buck stops where?

According to the Walker administration’s Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin gained 12,900 private-sector jobs in June.

Walker passes the buck on unemployment rate.
Who did Walker give credit to?

Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which brought your federal tax dollars home, both kept necessary need-based programs afloat while also funding projects that put people to work?


Did he give legislative Democrats credit for passing more than 50 different job creation measures last session when we were in control of the legislature?


Did he give credit to legislative Republicans, who thus far have talked a lot about job creation but yet passed very few ideas that will actually create jobs?


So who did he give credit to? Well, himself of course. On July 28, 2011, he issued this release, touting the number of jobs created on his watch.

Since Walker was so quick to take the credit, you’d think he’d also be quick to take the blame for July’s 12,500 private-sector jobs lost.

Wrong again!

In fact, he puts the onus in part on the recall elections. So, how did the recall elections hurt Wisconsin’s economy?

Good question. According to the people who apparently write Scott Walker’s talking points (Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce), the recall elections created “uncertainty” in our economy. I’m not making this up. Check out WMC’s statement here, which Walker basically regurgitated the next day to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

When the Journal Sentinel asked Walker if he should be accountable for the job loss since he previously took credit for job gains, he blamed job loss on “incredible uncertainty.”
So there you have it. Scott Walker wanted to be governor, but now that he’s in charge, he doesn’t want to be accountable.
Governor Walker, your continuous political rhetoric can’t hide your lack of real movement on job creation in Wisconsin (lawyers defending legislative lawsuits and poll workers doesn’t count as job creation).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Secret Society Known as ALEC

At the ALEC convention, one moderator said the legislators are the football players and the corporate lobbyists are the coaches. read more...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Video from ALEC Convention in New Orleans

In this video, I give insight into the recent ALEC convention in New Orleans.

Friday, August 5, 2011

All men (and corporations) are created equal...

If you are a single, somewhat unattractive corporation (maybe you have a chemical dumping problem or something), and you need a little love only a state legislature can give, you need ALEC. Read more... 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What I did on my Summer Vacation

I really thought it would take more than five minutes in New Orleans before I realized the conservative movement had landed.

But it didn’t.

As I was waiting for my bags, I heard a mid-thirties woman talking on the phone. “Yah, I’m down in New Orleans for the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting. We write legislation, and they..." Continue at The Progressive...

Guest Blog Roundup

I've been busy the last few weeks guest blogging for the Progressive and Fighting Bob about the recall elections and unemployment since my last blog post. Check out my guest blogs for the Progressive about what Senator Hansen's successful election means in the fight for worker's rights. I also encourage you to check out my guest blog for Fighting Bob on the unemployment fight and a follow-up on on the same topic on The Progressive.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rep. Pocan takes on the GOP redistricting plan

In the video below, I provide a basic primer on the Republican proposal for redrawing Wisconsin's legislative districts. From my perspective, the plan is one of the most rushed and more partisan redistricting processes that I have ever seen.

Click on the video below once to watch the video in this browser. Double click the video to be taken to my YouTube channel, where you can view this and other videos.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The GOP are not walking the walk

Today I wrote a blog for the Progressive Magazine that points out a few fiscal promises the GOP made but haven't lived up to. Check out the blog here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Walker vetoes don’t fix budget

You may have heard last weekend Governor Walker signed the Republican biennial budget bill.

What you may not have heard is that he signed the bill at a private location and refused to take questions from the media. Not surprising, though, because he knows his budget is unjustifiable to the average Wisconsinite. Under Walker’s budget, the middle class will have to work harder for less and the unemployed will have a “cooling off period” before they can collect an unemployment check while the rich just keep on getting richer. Those are not Wisconsin values.

Before signing the budget, Governor Walker made 50 vetoes. So rather than fixing the budget, what did Walker veto? Some of the highlights include:
  • * The Sheboygan aerospace landing pad
  • * Politician’s statements of economic interest will continue to be available on the internet
  • * Daycare providers will not be fingerprinted
  • * Board of Regents will remove certain aspects of the UW-Madison employment plans
  • * Deleted a grain inspection report
  • * Drug Offender Diversion Surcharge Fund report vetoed
  • * Suspended Milwaukee police officers will not be paid
  • * Dog the Bounty Hunter will not be able to practice his craft in Wisconsin
  • * Chewing tobacco will not be taxed based on weight
  • * The Pres House will remain tax exempt 
He had his chance to make this budget right. Instead, Governor Walker ensured the Republican budget is still full of gimmicks, mistruths and talking points that put Walker’s budget far from the document that puts Wisconsin on the path to long term fiscal stability, as they claim. The Republican budget puts more spending on Wisconsin’s credit card, gives billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations over the next decade and balances their budget with one-time fund raids and transfers, all while cutting programs that help the middle class.

If you’d like to read my statement on Walker’s vetoes, you can find it here. If you are just as much of a budget nerd as I am and you’d like to see all 50 vetoes, click here. You’ll see as I do, Governor Walker is out of touch with the struggles of poor and middle class Wisconsinites.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pocan & Risser introduce repeal of GOP collective bargaining law

Yesterday, Senator Fred Risser and I introduced legislation to repeal the Republican changes to collective bargaining in Wisconsin. To see our press release, click here. Or, check out my video blog on the topic below.

Double click on the video above to check out other video blogs available on my YouTube channel. I encourage you to also follow me on Twitter @MarkPocan. I also regularly post about what's going on in FitzWalkerstan on my facebook page.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Representative Pocan summarizes the Republican Budget

Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) concludes his daily talks about the state's biennial budget. Today, he summarizes the budget and talks about last night's floor vote.

In this video, Pocan pledges that while this is the last episode of his budget series, he will continue to expose right-wing policy through future video blogs.

Stay tuned. Next week, the Assembly is expected to take up concealed carry.

Debunking the dishonest GOP balanced budget, surplus claims

Tonight, I was the second member of the Assembly Democratic caucus to talk about the Republican budget on the floor of the Assembly. I’ve received good feedback from my speech, so I’d like to provide my Assembly floor speech here.

Not to get too policy wonkish, but tonight when debunking the dishonest GOP budget claims, I referenced specific memos from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. People have asked for copies of these memos, so I’ve hyperlinked them in this blog for your reference.

During the speech, I referenced 7 different items. Here are links to the documents with a brief explanation:

1) Republicans have created so many corporate tax breaks in this budget that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau pegs the 10-year cost in reduced revenue to the state at $2.3 billion. (See page 2)

2) Republicans use credit card spending to push $338 million dollars in state debt off into the future, costing us an additional $89.9 million in interest. (See page 2)

3) The GOP budget includes, at a minimum, $411 million in fund raids. (See page 1)

4) In the 2015-2017 biennium, Republicans cost the state $501.7 million in lost revenue because of their giveaways to corporations and the rich. (See page 2)

5) After claiming they don’t raise taxes in this budget, Republicans actually increase fees by $111 million. (See page 1)

6) After giving tax breaks to the rich and corporations, Republicans take away programs that help the middle class with their changes to the Homestead Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. (See page 3)

7) After all their talk during previous budgets about freezing property taxes, the Republican budget will result in $438.8 million in property tax increases. (See page 3)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pocan defends the environment

In today's daily video blog on Scott Walker's Republican budget, Representative Mark Pocan defended the environment and highlighted several damaging Republican actions.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Republican lies in the budget

In this series of daily video blogs about the Wisconsin State Budget, Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) highlights several Republican lies in this budget. These lies include fund raids and earmarks.

To read more of Pocan's writings, follow @MarkPocan on Twitter. You can also find him regularly posting about what's going on in FitzWalkerstan on his facebook page.

Pocan talks about health care

Continuing his daily video blogs about the impact Governor Walker's Republican budget will have on health care, Representative Mark Pocan talks about the differences between how Democrats and Republicans handled difficult budgets.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pocan talks about clean government and consumer protection

Governor Scott Walker's Republican budget makes drastic changes to clean elections and consumer protections. Click below to watch Representative Pocan, the former Democratic co-chair of the state's budget committee, briefly discuss these issues as part of his daily video blog to shed light on Wisconsin's state budget.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Republicans are fast-tracking Wisconsin's budget

Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) takes a break from his daily talks about the policy in Governor Scott Walker's budget to talk about the process Republicans are using to fast track the bill.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Representative Pocan talks about Walker's education budget

In his third daily episode, former co-chair of Wisconsin's Joint Committee on Finance, Representative Mark Pocan, talks about Governor Scott Walker's cuts to education.

How Walker and Republicans treat higher education

Here's a short summary of how Governor Scott Walker and Republicans have treated higher education so far in this budget.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This is not a bad budget...

Check out my new video blog on the state budget.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I see their true colors shining through!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes, a headline is worth a million. As of 10:02 am, today’s online headline of Jason Stein’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story reads “GOP panel votes for corporate tax break” with a subhead that reads “But Joint Finance Committee further cuts credits for working poor.” You can read the story for yourself here.

How much more crystal clear could it be? Republicans are beholden to the “haves” and don’t seem to care about the “have nots.”

Now do you understand why they are intent on rushing this budget through and their Senators are afraid to stand for a recall election?

I’d like to dedicate the Cyndi Lauper song about strength and perseverance to all 12 Repubs on the budget committee. Because I certainly “see your true colors shining through.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Downhill fast

I recently submitted a column for recapping the damage the budget will do. In case you missed the column, here it is below in its entirety:

Downhill fast

By Rep. Mark Pocan

May, 26, 2011

It’s been two months. The snow has melted. We Assembly Democrats have concluded our historic 62-plus hour floor debate. The Senate 14 came home. Fox News and its fake palm trees have gone back to warmer climates. The national spotlight has gone dark. The 100,000-plus people have left and the Capitol grounds have turned from a mud pit to the grassy areas we all remember. It may seem like things are back to normal in Madison, but don’t let Republicans lull you to sleep.

Inside the Capitol, visitors are still greeted by metal detectors, swarms of State Troopers and a faithful band of progressives who still sing from a progressive song book every noon hour. If you think Walker’s 144-page budget “repair” bill was bad, just imagine how bad the 1,345-page biennial budget is. In just one document, Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers, the rulers of FitzWalkerstan, have undermined so much of what we have worked so hard for.

The biennial budget has something for everyone; or rather, it takes something away from everyone.

For the fans of clean government and campaign finance reform, Republicans have killed the Impartial Justice Act Democrats passed last session in an effort to level the playing field for Supreme Court races. Republican ire for clean campaigns isn’t limited to Supreme Court races, however, as the Joint Committee on Finance just passed a motion that also kills the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund, ending the post-Watergate campaign finance grants that have been in place since the 1970s.

Do you like alternative transportation? Not only does Scott Walker completely eliminate state funding for new bike paths around the state in his budget bill, but Republicans eliminate regional transit authorities as well, both of which were passed last session when I co-chaired the budget committee.

Speaking of the environment, fans of the environment will be appalled to know Walker robbed the state’s recycling fund that helps local governments afford municipal recycling, and instead gave money to corporations through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Not to be outdone, the Fitzgerald brothers’ hand-picked Joint Committee on Finance recently took $280 million from nearly the next decade of funding for the Stewardship Fund.

And there’s something in the biennial budget for corporations too. Walker gave them a nice little handout when he reopened the Las Vegas loophole that Democrats closed last session, allowing corporations to shirk their civic duty to pay taxes. And to add insult to injury, the state’s budget committee recently took aim at the legacy of former Secretary Rod Nilsestuen when they undermined his working lands initiative, allowing farmers a means to protect their land from development, another legacy the Democratic majority cemented in the last budget.

If you are one of the many Wisconsinites who live paycheck to paycheck, there’s something in the budget for you too: more taxes and fees. Even though we were in a tough fiscal spot last budget, Democrats actually increased the Homestead Tax Credit. Republicans reduce that very credit. Also, Republicans have taken away the foreclosure and tenant protections we passed last session. Now, whether you own your home or rent, with a little bit of bad luck you have a better chance of becoming homeless in FitzWalkerstan.

Not to be forgotten, Walker and the Republicans plan to cut approximately $900 million from education. While the Bush recession helped create a deficit twice the size of what Walker is facing, two years ago I personally fought against even deeper proposed cuts in education.

Last but certainly not least, Democrats have made Wisconsin one of the best states in the country on health care, covering all kids and 98 percent of Wisconsinites. Not to be outdone, Walker’s proposed budget will reduce the number of people receiving health care assistance.

Wow, what a difference a couple years can make. With just a slim 52-vote majority in the Assembly, Democrats were able to pass a budget that closed corporate tax loopholes, raised taxes on the wealthiest of Wisconsinites, and held the line on taxes for low and middle-income people while investing in or limiting the cuts to programs that represent our core values as progressives.

The Senate Democrats and Assembly Democrats may have gotten a lot of attention for our two-pronged attack, with the Senate Democrats breaking quorum and the Assembly Democrats fighting like mad on the floor for almost three straight days. However, the real heroes were the 100,000-plus people who marched on the Capitol against the budget “repair” bill. In the end, Republicans proved they aren’t listening to you.

A lot of people have asked me, “What’s next?” There is still a great deal left to fight for (or against). Now, more than ever, progressives need to stand in solidarity to recall Republicans in the Senate and keep that momentum going forward to recall Governor Walker and reinstall progressive values in a state with the motto “forward.” Fighting Bob would expect no less.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More on Politi“Fact”

The folks over at PolitiFact apparently don’t like criticism. Interesting, since it is their business to criticize others.

But they were not happy about me outing their “process”. I’ve gotten the angry email from them. Words like “absurd”, “outrageous” and “outrageous” again. I think I hit a nerve.

Well, here’s more to make them unhappy….

I just went through a few recent posts (and one older – all the way back to the February blog I wrote) that I wanted to share just how off they are:

1) On February 25, PolitiFact states: If public employees don’t pay more for benefits starting April 1, 2011, “the equivalent” is 1,500 state employee layoffs by June 30, 2011 and 10,000 to 12,000 state and local government employee layoffs in the next two years. Politifact rating: Mostly True.

Well, it’s April 29th, no “repair” in place and, well, no layoffs. “Mostly true?” Ah, more like false. That is the same thing being said by most credible people about the Governor’s claim at the time. Walker acted as a bully, repeatedly promised layoffs if he didn’t get his way, and PolitiFact turned the other cheek and gave him a pass. Bad PolitiFact. (Can you really explain this one?)

2) On April 13, PolitFact rated “NO FLIP” on Scott Walker’s request for federal stimulus money for expanding rail. He refused it, now he asked for it. They originally rated it a “HALF FLIP” (a flop?), but now under pressure changed to say to “NO FLIP”.

C’mon PolitiFact, really? After Walker aides asked you to revisit…YOU flipped. I think you need to PolitiFact yourselves on this one. And I also suggest you flip your rating again.

3) On April 12, PolitiFact states about Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI): "The benefits that were offered to me as a congressman don’t even compare to the benefits that you get as a state employee. I just experienced that myself. They’re not nearly as good." PolitFact gave him a “Half True”.

The increased pay as a DA to a member of Congress is from $93,662 to $174,000. In addition to his salary spike, that’s almost doubling his pension BENEFIT. Half true? How about BS. Yes, he pays more for health insurance but that’s MORE THAN offset by his additional salary and pension benefit. And they are guessing on which actual health care plan he has, but have no verification (I’ll bet they sent a nasty email to him, right PolitiFact?)

And Duffy is complaining about not living “high on the hog”. Tell that to your constituents, Sean. But don’t worry about PolitiFact; they’ve got your back.

That’s only a few. I’ve got more.

But again, my goal is to make PolitiFact, an idea with merit, work. Right now, it’s a bit too sloppy and loose with the facts to be called PolitiFact.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Politi-facting PolitiFact

After a rather pointed conversation with a PolitiFact reporter on April 14th, I wrote this blog in advance of an expected “false” rating from PolitiFact, but didn’t publish this in advance of their opinion piece. Here’s what I originally wrote with some new information added at the end.

Two months ago (fact check that) I wrote a blog called “Scott Walker’s Top Ten Lies”. I laid out a number of the lies and misinformation that Governor Walker had put out during the introduction and debate about the budget repair bill.

In point number 9, I explained that Walker is blaming state workers for the fiscal crisis, when in reality the amount of money raised in the repair bill from increased contributions to healthcare and pensions was less than 1/10th of one percent of the state budget. That amount, therefore, did not drive any alleged problem.

However, in leading up to that, I made mention that total salary and compensation amounted to about 8.5 % of the total budget. While the total salary and compensation figure is closer to 17.7% of the total budget, I was referring to a memo from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that excluded two agencies – Corrections and the UW System – due to their unique nature. The balance of state agencies totals 8.5%.

Here’s why. The Department of Corrections has been hands off in every budget as you don’t really have that much flexibility in reducing staff numbers. But the real thrust of excluding them is that during the furlough process, we didn’t have great savings here because we still had to staff Corrections 24/7 causing a situation where when a furloughed shift was off, often immediately following an OVERTIME shift was created to keep staffing. And, the UW System has a large number of partially and fully FEDERALLY funded positions, thus furlough and other savings would be largely non-existent due to the funding sources of those positions (they aren’t STATE dollars). Thus, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the remaining totaled 8.5 percent. I didn’t make up the number, it came from them.

But that figure is interchangeable to the point I made – that the salary and benefit total “saved” is less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the budget repair bill. That is a fact, from the budget repair document itself (current budget is $65,775,284,400 according to Table 1 of Appropriations and Authorizations page of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau budget summary of Act 28 – the budget. The “savings” from having employees pay in for their health insurance and pensions in the budget repair bill for the current budget is $29,800.00. Do the math, its actually less than 1/20th of one percent).

Should have I been more clear with the 17.7%? In retrospect yes, as I should have written one more paragraph as I did above explaining why I used the remaining 8.5%. But that doesn’t change the point I was making at all.

Regardless which number you use, the just-under $30 million savings is under 1/10th of one percent of the budget EXACTLY as stated in my blog. That would be called a FACT, everywhere but PolitiFact.

However, with all the lies from the Republicans, the staff at Polifact apparently needed to address Walker staff concerns and rate a Democrat with a False rating despite that it was not the point of my blog.

I told the reporter just this via phone and email. Here is what sent to the reporter:

Dear Tom,

Thanks for our conversation today. I appreciate being able to explain my point in the two-month old blog you are referencing.

As I stated, I expect that you will focus on All Ten of the Top Ten Lies of Scott Walker. At minimum, I hope you will reference the point of item number nine – that Walker’s blaming the budgetary problems on the benefits paid to state workers is completely false. The total saved in the budget repair bill discussed is less than $30 million according to the bill itself, well under the 1/10th of one percent of the total budget referenced in my blog. I have provided that documentation to you, though it is public record as well.

Let me also note that there has been no PolitiFact evaluation yet on Governor Walker’s lie about the cut spending in the proposed budget; since then it has been shown the budget has an increase of $609.5 million.

I’m sure there are plenty of others. I know your hands are full. If you need any additional information, please feel free to contact me.

Mark Pocan

As a journalism major, I appreciate the profession and also the responsibilities of that profession. I didn’t post this ahead of time because I think it would be wrong to scoop a journalist who called me about a story.

Here’s the problem with PolitiFact. The point I was making was clear – you can’t blame state employees for budgetary problems as the amount being asked for in healthcare and pension contributions was much, much smaller than the scope of the alleged problem. It was less than 1/10th of one percent to be exact.

To ignore my point – much less the other nine points in my blog – is not good or fair journalism. (I guess the fact that they didn’t challenge any of the actual ten points means they agree Walker really lied. Too bad they had to dig that deep to find something to criticize.)

I’m disappointed, but more importantly, I wanted to share just how the Polifacts process works – or better said – doesn’t work at times.

I would expect better, and I hope that’s what we all get in the future.


Added as of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel publishing: Wow, I guess I am even more amazed/offended at two additional points.

1) The reporter, Tom Kertscher, lied. There is no sugar coating it. If you read the blog above, I clearly responded via email the same day (3:47 pm in fact) with the documents making my point. I will try calling him today to see if he merely lied or “didn’t get” it, but luckily I saved it in my sent file and cc’d a fellow journalist of his. Why he needed to lie to make his point makes me wonder if all the others that supposedly don’t respond to PolitiFact – both Democrats and Republicans – actually replied, but he didn’t share the truth with us.

2) Here is what he wrote in Sunday’s paper:

The Madison Democrat, a 13-year lawmaker, had this to say about what he labeled lie No. 9:

"Walker has said that our budget problems are largely due to employee wages. Not even close, Governor. Total salaries and compensation in the last budget were 8.5 percent of the entire state budget."

Here is what I wrote in the blog post (go ahead and check it):

9) Walker has said that our budget problems are largely due to employee wages. Not even close, Governor. Total salaries and compensation in the last budget were 8.5%* of the entire state budget. Even with the changes being made to paying more for health insurance and pensions, the total is less than 1/10th of one percent. Our real problem is the same as every state – revenues in sales tax and income tax are down due to unemployment. Luckily, unless Walker really blows it, he inherited a lower unemployment rate and a better tax collection rebound than most states in the nation. (underlining added) (Also, another paragraph explained the 8.5%* number, which included the 17.7% number)

The point of item #9 was that the approx. $30 million “saved” was a very insignificant amount in the totality of the budget, thus not driving the need for a budget repair. He intentionally left that part out, despite our telephone conversation where I emphatically explained this over and over. That was the first sign that this was a rigged process. His intentional non-inclusion can only be seen as deceitful at best.

Look, I don’t know how big this is in the grand scheme of the world. I just know that I have seen numerous times PolitiFact misrepresent or miscall items on both Republicans and Democrats in their quest to win the Pulitzer. If you don’t have enough real stuff to print daily, go every other day. Don’t just make things up. My guess is if they keep this up, they may instead be nominated for the Burlington Liar’s Club Award.

I’ll say it again. I would expect better, and I hope that’s what we all get in the future.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who is ALEC?

The recent blowup over UW-Madison history professor William Cronon involved a shadowy right-wing group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Professor Cronon rightly pointed out that ALEC supplies conservative legislators with cookie-cutter legislation that promotes far-right corporate views, legislation that is often written by the corporation for the corporations. And then the legislation is introduced by “independently-minded” GOP legislators.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin took offense and made a storm of open record requests from Cronon.

Well, back in December of 2007, I crashed…er, attended….one of ALEC's meetings and wrote an article for the Progressive Magazine.

Here it is.

Yup, they are a “special” bunch.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It doesn’t take a fortune teller…

…Scott Walker is just that easy to predict.

I previously predicted Walker blew this financial crisis out of proportion in an effort to pass his radical agenda. Walker created a budget “repair” bill. Then, Republicans stripped the non-fiscal items out of the budget “repair” bill and passed a bunch of right-wing policy items instead. So much for the “repairing” of the budget.

Then, I called Walker’s “scoop and toss” debt restructuring deadline “unsubstantiated.” According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Walker’s fake deadline was indeed phony.

In a February 7, 2011 blog post, I said “It appears that Governor Walker has turned Wisconsin’s progressive tradition into an unmistakable pattern of regurgitating hard right-wing ideas of conservative wordsmiths like Frank Luntz.” Little did I know how correct I actually was. According to a recent press account, the day after Governor Walker was punked by someone pretending to be a billionaire, he had a face-to-face meeting with renowned right-wing spinster/fixer, Frank Luntz.

Wow, the Governor is just too easy to predict. One final prediction: Walker will realize Luntz costs too much and will instead hire Bush “Speechalist” Harlan McCraney. McCraney’s promo video can be seen here.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The integrity of the Legislature

Usually, when people visit my blog, they expect a lot of facts, figures, links and pointed humor. After all, how else are we supposed to get through the day here in FitzWalkerstan?

Today, I left the humor and stats behind. Instead, I sent a somber letter to the Fitzgerald brothers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome to FitzWalkerstan

Wisconsinites, don’t recognize your state?

Over the past month, the most public of public buildings in my legislative district, the State Capitol, has been regularly locked down during business hours. Even legislators weren’t able to get in or out.

Don’t worry, though. Gov. Walker has a tunnel.

Over the past month, Republicans have ignored 50 years of Wisconsin tradition of negotiating with our state employees. Instead, Walker just issued layoff notices to thousands of state workers.

Don’t worry, Walker just gave himself more than 30 brand new political staff.

Over the past month, Republican legislators have continuously violated our own legislative rules. They’ve even disobeyed state law and a court order.

Don’t worry, they’re above the law.

Don’t recognize your state? That’s because it’s not your state anymore. The Republicans have spent the past two months quietly trying to form their own junta aimed at dismembering Wisconsin.

Welcome to FitzWalkerstan, where Wisconsin is open for special interest give-a-ways and closed to the middle-class.

The New Order will be issuing new laws soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can anyone trust Scott Walker?

Should the Senate Democrats trust Scott Walker?

No really, I’m asking.

We already know that Scott Walker lied to the voters when he embellished the size of the state’s deficit so he could justify sticking it to hardworking state employees. Even I’m not alone on that assertion, just check out Capitol veteran reporter Steven Walters’ Op Ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on February 27th that states, “And about that $3.6 billion deficit estimate. It’s misleading…”

Then, Walker admits, while being punked by someone he believed to be billionaire David Koch, to intentionally trying to dupe Senators into returning to the state without a compromise.

Then, he tells the media he won’t negotiate. Yet, as a result of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel open records request, we see his office has been kinda sorta negoti-emailing with a Democrat.

So, Walker lies to the public and the media and admits to trying to dupe the Senate Democrats. Tell me why anyone should believe him at this point?

Governor, the ball is in your court. Pick up the phone, talk to the Senators directly, negotiate in good faith, come to a compromise and end this thing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Follow the money… or the attorney getting the money

Remember when the Republicans hired their own attorneys in a potentially multi-million dollar sweetheart deal to act on behalf of the Legislature in redistricting matters and refused to allow the Democrats to have our own legal representation?

One of those law firms is Troupis Law Office, headed by Jim Troupis, who used to be a partner in the Firm Michael, Best & Friedrich (also notably RNC chairman Reince Priebus’ former firm). Both firms were hired by the Republicans to lead their redistricting efforts.

Don’t forget Jim Troupis. We’ll come back to him later.

Now, remember Club for Growth? They’re one of the groups that have hijacked Supreme Court races and state partisan races for the past several election cycles to the tune of more than $1M. You may also remember the ads Club for Growth put up within minutes of Walker introducing his budget “repair” bill.

Back to attorney Jim Troupis. One Wisconsin Now uncovered who this man really is in 2009. They found significant business relationships with David Prosser and Legislative Republicans, big clients of Troupis’ legal career.

Now, we find out that Republicans are about to cut another blank taxpayer check to Troupis for legal advice to compel Senate Democrats back into the state. Troupis even got involved in court proceedings in Senator Jim Holprin’s district. The case was filed on behalf of a resident, bankrolled by Wisconsin Club for Growth and tried in court by… you guessed it, Jim Troupis.

So, there you have it – Troupis and Club for Growth in, er, in court together. How can Troupis be the taxpayer’s lawyer and also Club for Growth’s campaign lawyer without breaching some sort of ethics rules or at the very least, the public’s trust?

It would appear through a simple Google search, following the money is easier than one might think. Troupis earned a lot of money in his career from taxpayers and has a long history of donating to almost exclusively Republicans and conservative Supreme Court candidates. Now we learn that he’s also working with one of the GOP’s biggest campaign groups.

I’ll let you decide if this passes the smell test.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pink Slip for Walker

Scott Walker is in trouble. The man elected just a few short months ago with 52% of the vote has a disapproval rating of 57%, according to a new poll. His once bright political future may come to an end in nine months, when he is eligible for recall.

Walker's pink slip hangs proudly in Pocan's window.

Is he backing off, taking yes for an answer? Is he even looking for a political escape route that allows him to save face?


Scott Walker is using real human beings as political shields to protect himself from the public shellacking he’s taken in the past few weeks.

It seems like just about every day Walker flings a threat at Democrats. Many of them have been debunked as illegal, out of his power or simple bullying. But now he’s gone a step further. Today, Walker threatened 1,500 innocent state employees with layoff if Senate Democrats don’t return and do his bidding.

Scott Walker, you’ve gone too far. The people of this state didn’t elect a bully. They elected you to fix the economy, not to increase the unemployment rate.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The King’s Same Old Speech?

Last evening, Governor Walker continued his primetime tv appearances reiterating the same old tired refrain, including his refusal to do his job and negotiate with workers. He also refuses to talk or sit down with the Assembly Democrats.

In fact, if you listened to Walker’s “fireside” chat, it could have been taped a week ago; he totally ignored the offer from labor to accept the demands to pay more for health insurance and pensions. He knows if he talks about what he REALLY is up to - taking away workers' rights to collectively bargain for workplace and safety conditions – his polling numbers would continue to slip.

Even King Walker’s efforts to steal a page from FDR’s playbook of fireside chat aren’t working. FDR rolled out his New Deal program that provided relief and security for the poor. Walker did none of that. If you missed the King’s speech, let me paraphrase it.

Hello, lie, lie, lie, threaten, lie, lie, threaten, Wisconsin's founders are smart, lie, good night.

More lies about the bill and the process. And now threats to layoff workers if the Democrats in the Senate don't return.

Governor Walker, it's time to be a leader and negotiate. Democratic and Republican Governors have worked with the bargaining law for the last 50 years and kept labor peace in our state. It's your turn to do the right thing. This is what leaders are made of, Governor.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Near-Riots in Madison!!!?

Did that headline draw you into this blog? Fox News is hoping those words draw in viewership. Right-wing pundits from Fox News said Madison had turned into a scene of “near riots.”

A couple thousand people attended the tea party rally while approximately 70,000 plus supporters of workers surrounded them in a parade that spanned a continuous circle around the State Capitol. One of my aides followed a national Fox Business reporter and their cameraman and overheard the reporter feverishly calling into his control room.

You see, the tea party rally was getting close to ending and he wanted a live shot of the counter demonstration clashing with the tea partiers. “They are pushing in and this is going to get violent,” the man said excitedly. If only wishing made it so. Volunteers walked through the rallies with signs that read “This is a peaceful protest” and reminded people to keep their cool. Tea partiers had to exit their rally through a sea of teachers and nurses. Nobody got hurt.

But surely there were a lot of arrests, right? Nope. Zip. Zero. Nada. Sorry Fox News, your efforts to incite violence was thwarted by a bunch of public servants. Who would have thought?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scott Walker's Top Ten Lies

It takes a lot of spin to sell a load of …., well, to sell an idea that is unpopular with most Wisconsinites. Here is a list of the top ten lies so far:

1) We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. The need for a budget “repair” bill is manufactured so that Governor Scott Walker can bring in a “Trojan Horse” of bad conservative ideas promoted nationally by the far right. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said no statutory trigger was met to require a repair bill.

2) Governor Walker has said, "This is not a shock." The Republican who took office in January said "The shock would be if we didn't go forward with this.” He was referring to his claim that during his campaign he said he was going to do the things that are in his budget “repair” bill. Not so fast, Governor. This one is a make-your-own project: Google ANYTHING about getting rid of collective bargaining, allowing a single committee oversight over sweeping reductions of access to Badgercare, etc. No, really. Try it.

3) The question isn’t so much whether it’s a lie or not, but the size of the lie. Walker claimed if we didn’t pass his “repair” bill, either 1,500 or 6,000 workers would be laid off. Why its not 2,500 or 4,000, I don’t know but I do know it’s a lie. The total brought in by the changes to health care and pensions are $30 million. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the average salary for a state employee is about $50,300 annually plus benefits. At that salary alone, the total would be $301,800,000 for 6,000 employees – a total cost way more than the policy changes about employees’ benefits would bring in.

4) He also stated that “close to 200,000 children who would be bumped off Medicard-related programs.” More manure. Legally, the state does not have the option to change eligibility requirements or remove kids from Medicaid according to the federal health care law until the year 2019. And by then, trust me, Walker will not be Governor.

5) Walker’s claims that states without collective bargaining having faired better in the current bad economy are wrong. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, three of the 13 non-collective bargaining states are among the eleven states facing budget shortfalls at or above 20% (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina). Another, South Carolina, comes in at a sizable 17.4%. Nevada, where state employees have no collective bargaining rights (but local employees do) has the largest percentage shortfall in the country, at 45.2%. All in all, eight non-collective-bargaining states face larger budget shortfalls than either Wisconsin or Ohio.

6) Public employees living high off the hog? Hogwash! The truth is usually people in public service work because they want to be public servants. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants such as education and work experience. State workers typically are undercompensated by 8.2% in Wisconsin.

7) Both Governor Walker and legislative leaders said we needed a “repair” bill to address a payment owed to the State of Minnesota of nearly $60 million and money owed to the Patient’s Compensation Fund in the tune of $200-plus million. The bill as introduced addresses NEITHER.

8) After getting heat for calling the National Guard instead of the unions to sit down and negotiate, he quickly backpedaled saying he merely put them “on alert” to take over the prisons if necessary. His handlers quickly realized that he over-reacted and needed to pull back before looking completely obstructionist. We have not had to put the National Guard into action due to a piece of state legislation in, well, pretty much forever. Instead of calling the unions to sit down and negotiate, he calls the National Guard and downplays (lies) about it later.

9) Walker has said that our budget problems are largely due to employee wages. Not even close, Governor. Total salaries and compensation in the last budget were 8.5%* of the entire state budget. Even with the changes being made to paying more for health insurance and pensions, the total is less than 1/10th of one percent. Our real problem is the same as every state – revenues in sales tax and income tax are down due to unemployment. Luckily, unless Walker really blows it, he inherited a lower unemployment rate and a better tax collection rebound than most states in the nation.

10) The Governor has over and over that the “repair” bill is about making state workers pay more for their health insurance and pension. As we all know, if that is all that the bill did he’d be sitting back at his mansion right now, sipping on a nice scotch, and playing on-line chess with Grover Norquist. This bill is about so much more. We all know it takes away people’s rights to collectively bargain. But it also allows for sweeping changes and reductions in Medicaid, makes it almost impossible for unions to exist, engages in a risky ‘scoop and toss’ debt restructuring, sells off state power plants and much, much more.

That’s ten for now. I’m sure they will keep piling up. But seeing it all in one place sure is illustrative of Governor’s Walker accounting of the “repair” bill has no merit.

Governor, c’mon. You owe us better than this.

*The 8.5% figure from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau excludes two agencies: Corrections and the UW System. No one is talking about reducing critical public safety staffing at corrections (you can't) and many positions at the UW are largely if not excusively based on federal funds. If both agencies were included, LFB puts that number at 17.7% (a number that is skewed because of federally funded and other critical public safety positions). Thus, Walker 's proposed employee pension and healthcare changes remain a very small percent of total state employee salary and thus, a small portion of the state's budget and a small portion of the state's budget deficit.

UPDATE: The list of lies is growing fast. Check out this PolitiFact debunking Walker's statement that under his budget 'repair' bill, collective bargaining rights are "left in tact."